In late February, elite curlers Kerri Einarson and Joanne Courtney were facing off against each other in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts final.
But outside of the bubble, these athletes face a much tougher shared opponent.
Einarson, the reigning Scotties champ, and Olympian Courtney work on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both have more than a decade of experience in their respective fields: Einarson as a rehabilitation assistant in a long-term care facility, and Courtney as a registered nurse in Edmonton.
Courtney was plunged into the reality of nursing during COVID times when she returned from maternity leave in July 2020.
“When things blew up in the fall, that’s when it really got serious,” Courtney said.
“We started to have cases in our unit, trying to make sure that we don’t go through an outbreak while other units in the hospital have an outbreak, so really tense, very stressful. The patients are scared, the staff don’t want to transmit it to anyone, and you don’t want to bring it home.”
In Manitoba, Einarson strives to help the roughly 80 residents of a long-term care facility keep their spirits up and battle feelings of isolation.
“Us being outside of Winnipeg, we were pretty fortunate to not have as many cases but it was still scary times,” Einarson recalled.
Early on, the facility had a false positive test that put many on edge.
“We’re just trying to be there for the residents and talk with them more and spend that extra time with them because they don’t get that time with their families that they would normally have,” Einarson said.
“I actually have a resident who calls me all the time here. I really enjoy getting her phone calls!”
Einarson missed getting her COVID-19 vaccine because she would’ve been in the bubble when she’d need her second dose.
She hopes to get it after the Canadian Mixed Doubles Championship wraps up and prior to competing in the World Championship.
Ultimately, the pair hope the curling events can provide some joy and distraction during a difficult time and that fans will keep front-line workers in their thoughts throughout.
“There are people that haven’t had a break from this, and front-line workers have been so resilient,” Courtney added. “To see people come into work with a smile on their face, giving the best care they can and try and be the bright spot in someone’s life, it’s so cool to see.”